Monday, 28 September 2009

My second treat last week

My other treat last week, and the main reason for my visit to Cambridge, was to catch the ERTF exhibition in Jesus Lane before it finished at the weekend.    So so glad I did.   There was a lovely welcome from the duty curators, who were helpful and friendly, but not overwhelming.   The textiles work was expertly displayed, plenty of room to stand back and admire from a distance.     And so much to admire.    My emotions swooped up and down - one minute borne up on the wings of  inspiration;  the next plummeting down into despondency at ever achieving anything half so good in my own work.    I was very taken with the textile sculptures, and was thrilled to bits to see a couple of pieces, which I have often pored over in one of my favourite books by Janet Edmonds  'three-dimensional EMBROIDERY'.  

But, of course, the biggest treat was seeing 'in the flesh' (literally!) Gina Ferrari's piece called Birth of Woman, illustrating her emergence from her roles as wife and mother, to be a woman in her own right.  The feminine curves of this Venus were expertly padded and shaded and it was a truly beautiful 'emergence' from the flat and rather ghostly background of the newspaper cuttings.   I wish you could have seen it!

So now off to finish packing for our little jaunt this week - dipping our toes in the Mediterranean.   No chance of me emerging from the waves looking like this Venus!

Thursday, 24 September 2009

Kettle's Yard, Cambridge

"Between 1958 and 1973 Kettle's Yard in Cambridge was the home of Jim and Helen Ede. In the 1920s and 30s Jim had been a curator at the Tate Gallery in London. Thanks to his friendships with artists and other like-minded people, over the years he gathered a remarkable collection, including paintings by Ben and Winifred Nicholson, Alfred Wallis, Christopher Wood, David Jones and Joan Miro, as well as sculptures by Henri Gaudier-Brzeska, Constantin Brancusi, Henry Moore and Barbara Hepworth.

At Kettle's Yard Jim carefully positioned these artworks alongside furniture, glass, ceramics and natural objects, with the aim of creating a harmonic whole. His vision was of a place that should not be "an art gallery or museum, nor ... simply a collection of works of art reflecting my taste or the taste of a given period. It is, rather, a continuing way of life from these last fifty years, in which stray objects, stones, glass, pictures, sculpture, in light and in space, have been used to make manifest the underlying stability."

Kettle's Yard was originally conceived with students in mind. Jim kept 'open house' every afternoon of term, personally guiding visitors around his home. In 1966 he gave the house and its contents to the University of Cambridge. In 1970, three years before the Edes retired to Edinburgh, the house was extended, and an exhibition gallery added.


Today each afternoon (apart from Mondays) visitors can ring the bell and ask to look around."  

So (after intending to for about a quarter of a century) today I did.  I found the door in a little alleyway, gingerly clanged the bell and waited to be admitted.  It was a gorgeous sunny day in Cambridge and I just about had Kettle's Yard to myself.   You are encouraged to sit in the chairs, read the books, (but don't touch the displays!).   I did feel slightly self-conscious making myself at home in this treasure-house, but it is so welcoming, calm, serene and all-round delightful, that it's easy to fall into the fancy that it's your own.   The light is wonderful, the floorboards silky-soft, everywhere there are stunning artworks, casual/careful displays of pebbles, shells, driftwood (I do so LOVE a nature-table), little joys and surprises at every turn.   I was going to describe it as slightly spartan, but it's really nothing of the sort, though there are no lavish creature comforts.   This magical home greets you, surrounds you, comforts you with beauty and easy charm.  I just can't wait to return.

Where will I be today?

Today I am going here and here.

Tuesday, 22 September 2009

Autumn Leaves felted bag

Country Living (p.23) has this fantastic felted bag, decorated with real autumn leaves.   I just loved it and the whole autumn theme of the pages around it.   I had to have one, and I tried to find out who had made this, but the only link is to a site where the bags are nothing like.  
So, I made my own, with felted leaves.   I had so much advice from kind people about how to finish the leaves off - stitching/no stitching - and stitching something came out tops.   I still wanted them to look straight off the forest floor, so I didn't add any beads or other embellishments.   I contrived some 'twistiness' when I stitched the leaves together, sewed them to a kilt pin and fixed the whole corsage to my wet-felted huge creamy-coloured bag - just in time for my trip away next week.

Big Thank You to everyone who kindly left me comments to guide me forward with the leaf shapes - you were right!

Saturday, 19 September 2009

Hip-Hop (just my little joke ...)

Have a lovely weekend, one and all!

Tuesday, 15 September 2009

Back to Scotland 1930's

I had so many helpful responses to my last post about felt leaves, that I've now got a fair bit of sewing to do as a result!   Thanks everyone for their very helpful input.    So .... to keep you occupied while I toil over the steam-powered Singer, I'm posting another extract (a long one, I've got a lot to do!) from my dad's memoirs.   Intermingled are some sad photos of his home of those days, tragically allowed to fall into ruins and nature is reclaiming her territory.  

"Two rough, single-track, gravelled roads enabled the big, wide, outside world to keep in touch physically with Auchenglen had it so desired. One led steeply up out of the valley on the north side to the main Lanark/Carluke highway, beyond which the rest of humanity lived, worked and had their being. The continuation of that road westwards led all the way down the valley to the village of Crossford on the banks of the River Clyde. There were also two public rights of way in the form of footpaths. One wandered steeply up through the woods to the south on to a road leading from Crossford to Nemphlar Village and was never very busy. The other was the well-trodden path leading to Braidwood Village. Every part of those roads and paths had its own special name, by which we natives could identify to each other with pinpoint accuracy the spot we wished to refer to, but which would not have meant a great deal to outsiders.


Every journey from Auchenglen began by going down to the Bridge over the burn and then up to the Black Tree. This stunted specimen of the noble Douglas fir, truncated in times gone by, presumably by a gale or perhaps a lightning strike, had all the girth of its species but not the height of a fully mature tree. However, its branches were long and strong and spaced in such a way that even when my brothers and I were quite young we were able to climb with ease and safety all the way to the top, some thirty feet above ground level. The trunk at lower levels was black and rough and gnarled but it smoothed out with height where it was covered with blisters of sweet-smelling resin. In summer, if they were touched or brushed against, they would exude a clear sticky fluid like golden syrup which instantly turned black on contact with our hands and knees.

Having reached the Black Tree and negotiated the tight hairpin to the right, (called, reasonably enough, the Black Tree Corner) you now had a decision to make. You could climb over a five-barred gate into the Lanark Field, which would be full of cows peacefully grazing. A footpath that was the hypotenuse of a rough triangle would lead you up across the field to rejoin the road at the Foot of the Big Hill. Alternatively, you could continue on the road from the Black Tree Corner and go along the Level to the Butler’s Lodge where you had to turn left through ninety degrees and climb to the Foot of the Big Hill thus completing the other two sides of the triangle. The Big Hill itself was steep and covered with a canopy of large beech trees. Panting, you reach the Top of the Big Hill and co-incidentally, the Foot of the Hedges. These were very high beech hedges that were trimmed at roadside height but then allowed to grow until they met to form an arch some twenty feet up. Still climbing this gently twisting and turning part of the road known, not surprisingly, as the Hedges you arrive at the Top Level with only a couple of hundred yards to go to reach the main road at Head’s Toll. There, Alex McLaren, the local roadman, and his wife lived in a tiny little white-painted cottage that had once been the building where road tolls were collected.

The job of roadman when I was young was an occupation well-known to country folk. He was employed by the council and was given responsibility for the maintenance of a stretch of country road several miles long. He had to keep the roadside ditches clear so that surface water could drain away. He had to keep down excessive growth of grass and weeds and trim the hedges. Any holes which developed in the rough road surface had to be filled in to prevent the formation of puddles. He was invariably a reliable worker and his progress could be followed day by day as his stretch of road reflected the pride which he displayed in his job by its neatness and cleanliness.

Head’s Toll was on the main Lanark to Glasgow SMT (Scottish Motor Traction) bus route. Buses ran every twenty minutes and it cost 2d to travel to Carluke and 4d for the five mile journey to Lanark.

Now, let’s go back to the Black Tree. If you were not going to Lanark or Carluke, clearly you were going to either Crossford or Braidwood and that would mostly depend on whether you were going to church or school. If to church, you would go down past the Top of the Wee Pad, over the Crossford Bridge and up to the Top of the Glen. The Glen looked as though it had been formed centuries ago by a landslip down towards the Mashock Burn. It was now overgrown with nettles, thistles, brambles, bracken and willow herb through which young birch trees grew silvery, slender and straight. Intertwined with all the undergrowth were wild raspberry bushes that produced the most juicy, tasty berries imaginable for jam making. Every summer the family would spend several evenings profitably harvesting this bounty of nature while being eaten alive by midges and stung into blisters by nettles and wasps. But the jam was lovely!

Following round the half-moon contour at the Top of the Glen you came to the Top of the Damsons. Now the road twisted quite steeply downhill through orchards for a couple of hundred yards or so. There were damson trees lining both sides of the road and in the autumn, on our way home from church on Sunday mornings we would all fill our pockets with the ripe fruit lying thickly scattered on the grassy banks at the sides of the road. Mum would convert these to delicious damson jelly to store away in the cupboard.

Continuing downhill we passed two farm labourers’ cottages called by us the Auld Hooses; farther down came Birkhill Farm occupied by Mr and Mrs Greenshields, their son Andrew and their daughter Etta. Down, down and still farther down through more damson-lined orchards, called the Bottom Damsons, until eventually the land flattens out and clearly becomes more cultivated as you reach the river level of the Clyde Valley. On a normal Sunday morning if you reach the Crossford to Braidwood Road before the church bell starts tolling its welcoming summons you know, with a quarter of a mile still to go, that you will arrive at the church in good time.

The road leading into the village of Crossford passes over a long but narrow, multi-arched, stone bridge over the Clyde providing a picturesque view of the river and the meadows and orchards on its banks as well as providing a meeting place where some of the village worthies would gather for a gossip of a summer’s evening. Trout and otters could sometimes be seen in the Clyde's pellucid water.

Now we go back to our starting position again. This time we are going to school. Set off down the Crossford Road but only for a hundred yards or so until you reach the Top of the Wee Pad. Then go down the footpath, past the beds of wild hyacinths forming clouds of sweet-scented blueness in the woods to the left, and the hollow where the spring rises with its cold, clear water. Watch out for the pastel-tinted foxgloves rising above the delicate green ferns and for the bed of marsh marigolds that brightens up the dark corner by the water’s edge as though pinpointed by a single ray of golden sunshine. You will hear, in the distance, the splash of the March Burn as it cascades over the Chapel Falls into the Fiddler Burn. Just above the waterfall there is a steep bank covered with bright, yellow, wild sunflowers in summer. Round the corner you will find a tiny footbridge (known, of course, as the Wee Brig) made with railway sleepers mounted on steel rails crossing the Fiddler Burn.

One night when I was about nine we, as a family, were returning home from a school concert in Braidwood. (It just might have been a performance of ‘The Wedding of the Painted Doll’ in which I played a leading part although not, I hasten to add, the Painted Doll herself.) It was a fine night but pitch dark with only the glow of the myriad stars in the Milky Way to guide our steps. Dad, who was carrying my youngest brother on his shoulders, missed his footing on the bridge and, as there was no handrail, plunged into the rock-strewn bed of the burn. Dan came to no harm but Dad sustained several broken ribs and severe bruising.

Now we are ready to climb up the steep path out of the valley through the orchards and past the Chapel Road End from where a short avenue lined with cypress trees leads to St Oswald’s Chapel Farm. The farm building itself is a dwelling house reputed by some to have been built on a site that had a connection with monks in time long gone. I suppose it must have some history about it to earn such a name but I don’t know it. In my school days it was a fruit farm with old, neglected, unkempt fruit trees in its orchards and was owned by two old spinster sisters, Maggie and Minnie Craig. Keep climbing steeply upwards to reach Hamperhill, another fruit farm, but watch out for the dog. Jessie Steel, a spinster who owned the orchards, kept a huge German shepherd called Rex that defended its territory by barking with a deafeningly loud and angry roar at every passer-by.  Now we have reached the end of the path and we’ve joined the road that leads to the Braidwood Village. We have three sets of tomato houses and two farms still to pass but we’ll soon be there and the going is now level almost all the way.

It was in the peace and tranquility of this idyllic, secluded setting, far distant from the urgent hustle of towns and even the bustle of the fast track of village life that I was born, the oldest of three brothers, on 12th March, 1925 and it was there that I spent my first eighteen years. Part of me still belongs in that serene, picturesque valley and its beguiling surroundings. Its wonderful sounds and sights and smells were the fabric of my childhood and they still linger alluringly."

Monday, 14 September 2009

Autumn Leaves - felted, of course

Some representations of the colours of autumn, wet-felted and made into leaf shapes.   The plan is to make a corsage, fixed to a kilt-pin, and attach it to a felted bag for me me me.   But - I need some guidance from you you you!   Should I machine stitch some 'veins' on the leaf shapes to make them a bit more realistic, or leave them as they are, just to 'suggest' leaves?    I really would like some advice - please and thank you!

Saturday, 12 September 2009

wedding anniversary today!

And twenty bright hot-air balloons flew right over the house before breakfast! What a lovely start to the day.

Have a lovely weekend, whatever you are doing!

Wednesday, 9 September 2009

Gussied-up giant cinnamon sticks

Trying to salvage something from a trip to Peterborough to renew, at great expense, my expired passport two days before we were due to go on holiday, long-suffering friend Anne indulged me while I wandered round an oriental supermarket in the city. We loved the packaging and bright displays, but what really caught my eye was some hummungous cinnamon sticks - they must be nearly a foot long! Ideal candidates for a bit of gussying-up for the festive season. Now I haven't been able to devote myself entirely to crafting at the moment, having DH in hospital for a couple of days and several shepherds pies to make for the village Women's Institute harvest supper tomorrow, but over the past few days I gradually managed to assemble these.

They smell all Christmassy, but I think would be lovely all year round in one of those well-ordered homes where things are artfully arranged in French-themed shabby-chic vignettes on pretty side tables. i.e. not mine!! So they'll have to be pressies, or decoration on a little craft stall I'm having locally in November. Yes. Perhaps so.

Friday, 4 September 2009

Elderberry & apple jelly

gathered the raw ingredients from our garden hedgerow

dripped the fruit pulp overnight from the jelly bag

love the purple stains the elderberries left behind

trusty old stirring spoons

jelly made, lids on!

Tuesday, 1 September 2009

Thank you

1. Rosi, for the lovely things you brought me from your holiday in Brittany

award-winning sweeties

a lovely dish

some henny-pegs and shiny buttons

2. Hilda Hen, for my breakfast this morning